Tag

support

Browsing
Despite affecting an estimated 5 to 10% of the population, there’s a learning disability lacking much needed awareness – the lack of which is leaving children to fall behind their peers. This condition is known as dyscalculia.

Dyscalculia is a mathematical learning disability known as a Specific Learning Disability (SpLD) – a group of learning disabilities which usually involve mathematics, spelling, listening, speaking or writing. People with dyscalculia generally have difficulty with arithmetic, numbers and mathematic reasoning. The most common components include:

  • Trouble understanding numbers
  • A delay in learning to count
  • Difficulty connecting numerical symbols with words
  • Losing track when counting and
  • Struggling to recognise patterns

As maths education often involves a series of ‘building blocks’ that become incrementally more complex over the years, children who miss out on some of the foundational ‘blocks’ of maths are put at an intense disadvantage to their peers when it comes to more advanced applications of mathematics.  It’s especially difficult for children with dyscalculia as they may fall behind due to a lack support and recognition from the adults around them.

This can negatively impact their mental health, school marks and their options when it comes to higher education and their future career. Some of the main predictors that can indicate a child potentially has dyscalculia include:

  1. Difficulty adding single digit numbers
  2. Difficulty identifying numbers
  3. Inability to understand the relation numbers have to each other.
  4. Having limited working memory
maths
Photo Credit: Keren Fedida on Unsplash

Dyscalculia is not something to be ‘fixed’ or that children will ‘grow out of’, with studies showing that the condition is generally lifelong and that a mentality of ‘fixing’ learning disabilities has been extremely damaging. However, there are techniques that can be used to manage difficulties, cope with challenges and improve their maths skills. If children lack the proper support, this can be a major source of distress for those with the condition, especially in a school setting.

There are fun ways parents, guardians and teachers can help children improve their mathematic skills. These can include playing counting games together, offering homework help, playing online maths games or apps and using maths memorisation cards. Board games are also an excellent tool for improving mathematic reasoning skills.

games with children
Photo Credit: Adam Winger on Unsplash

With 1 in every 10 Australians suffering from a learning disability, research shows this lack of education is a major inhibitor to effective treatment. Children with conditions like dyscalculia and the more well-known dyslexia, often go under the radar, especially if teachers aren’t adequately trained to look out for the signs.

With the National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy report finding only 5% of the curriculum in Bachelor of Education training courses is dedicated to teaching reading, there is concern that many kids who are struggling may go unnoticed. Some of the most common conditions include:

  • Dyslexia, which is considered the most common learning disability
  • Dysgraphia, which relates to writing and spelling difficulty
  • Dyscalculia
  • Dysphasia, which relates to speech difficulties

Depending on the age of a child with dyscalculia, the signs to look out for can be different, although they may overlap:

Primary school-aged children

During primary school years, the condition may go unnoticed or symptoms may be attributed to another cause. Unfortunately, this puts children in a disadvantaged position with the consequences to continue for years. The signs that a child in primary school is dealing with dyscalculia usually include:

  • Difficulty keeping count in games or activities
  • Difficulty making sense of numerical value
  • Trouble writing numerals legibly
  • Struggling with fractions
primary school
Photo Credit: Michal Parzuchowski on Unsplash

Secondary school-aged children

Although the signs among high-schoolers may include the same as those listed for primary school, these signs are more common to find among secondary school students:

  • Struggling with maths relating to finance, for example understanding how to make change or to take a percentage off of a price
  • Difficult with understanding graphs or other visual representations of numbers
  • Has difficulty understanding measurements for recipes or science experiments
school
Secondary school students may show different signs of dyscalculia

If you’ve noticed these signs in your child or student, the next step is for the child to get a proper assessment and rule out any other possibilities, such as eyesight or hearing impairments. Dyscalculia can be diagnosed by a psychologist who will assess the individual’s unique situation. It is generally required that the child being assessed receives 6 months of intervention involving mathematical assessment and instruction before a diagnosis can be made.

While all children may struggle with maths at some point and will learn at different speeds, they can usually improve with time and practice, but for those with dyscalculia, the problems may remain despite regular and intensive practice. If a diagnosis is made, the psychologist will recommend the best course of action for the child based on their strengths and weaknesses.

 

Sue and husband Lee, from Melbourne, have been foster carers with MacKillop Family Services for two and a half years. They talk about their experience and the benefits of being foster carers, and how it has enriched life for their family and the community.

Between them, Sue and Lee have five children of their own, and friends thought they were taking on too much when they said that they were going to be foster carers, but Sue says the family has benefited so much from the experience.

Sharing their home with kids in foster care has enriched life for everyone in this family.

“It’s not about what you give, it’s all about what you get back”, insists foster carer Sue McLaughlin.

Sue and husband Lee, from Melbourne, have been foster carers with MacKillop Family Services for two and a half years, providing a safe and nurturing home for babies and toddlers.

Between them, Sue and Lee have five children of their own, and friends thought they were taking on too much when they said that they were going to be foster carers, but Sue says the family has benefited so much from the experience,

“With four teenagers and one nine-year-old, foster care is a team effort with everyone pitching in and helping with the babies. Our kids have learned a great deal from opening their home to other children,

“They absolutely love having the babies to stay. It’s been such a positive experience for us and it’s taught the kids a lot about the wider world. We share age appropriate information with them about each little one that arrives, they understand that sometimes people need support and that’s why we are caring for the babies.”

“With four teenagers and one nine-year-old, foster care is a team effort with everyone pitching in and helping with the babies. Our kids have learned a great deal from opening their home to other children”

Sue and Lee sat down and discussed how foster care works with their children before starting foster care training and she believes it has been hugely educational for them,

“Our kids are an enormous help to me and the babies just love it when they come from school as their big brothers and sisters are there to play. Some days I say to them, ‘Guys, I couldn’t have done this without you today.’ They just want to keep them all forever, but we talk about how we have the babies for a short time and it’s our job to keep them safe and as happy as possible in that time.”

Over the last two years, Sue and Lee have looked after two young children since they were six weeks and eighteen months old as well as providing emergency and respite care for other babies and toddlers when needed.

Sue’s kids have also become advocates for foster care among their friends and at their schools,

“They see the babies as their brothers or sisters but are also quick to tell people that we are a foster family. They are happy to explain to some of their friends who have not had any experience of foster care what it is all about and why there is a need. I am so proud that they are growing into compassionate people who have empathy for others and understand that people can experience difficult times in their lives.”

Sue’s kids have also become advocates for foster care among their friends and at their schools.

Children need homes for all sorts of reasons, sometimes it is respite care to give parents a break, sometimes parents are ill or in hospital and unable to look after their children. There are also situations where children may have been abused or neglected because the children are in a domestic and family violence situation.

Foster carers can be single, retired, studying or working and can rent or own their own homes. There are also many types of foster care. Care can be for a weekend, a few weeks, a few months or even years. Foster carers can choose the type of care that suits them.

MacKillop Family Services provides practical support to carers to support them to support the child. Intensive and ongoing training provides carers with a specific insight into caring for children who have experienced trauma. MacKillop also operates an after-hours service so carers can call for support 24 hours a day.

Babies, children and young people need all sorts of different homes, so if foster care is something that could work for you or your family, contact MacKillop Family Services who will help you work through the steps to become an accredited foster carer.

For more information, visit https://www.mackillop.org.au/

Kirsten from NSW, mother of two, shares her personal story on managing anxiety and post-natal depression.

When my son was born 10 years ago I was excessively worried about looking after him, both during and after the pregnancy, to the point where the fear was crippling. The five nights I spent in hospital I hardly slept, the anxiety just kept me awake. I started to obsess over sleep routines for him and for myself. My head was always full of what ifs. I feared being alone with him and didn’t want my first husband to go to work. The anxiety just increased and I started experiencing burning sensations in my back, arms and neck.

The anxiety and worry led to two weeks of no sleep and so I took myself to the hospital to get help. They administered some medication to help me calm down and I stayed there for a week. By that stage, I honestly felt like my body had forgotten how to sleep. The anxiety led to severe depression. I received some psychological help which allowed me to get by. Medication helped me to feel better and to sleep at night.

Eventually over the next few months I think I just got used to being a mum, gained confidence and eventually things went back to normal. I also went back to work part time where I felt safe and confident. When my second husband and I decided to try for a baby I started the process of gaining a better understanding of postnatal depression and anxiety through research. I guess I was doing all I could to prevent going through that nightmare experience again. So in 2014, I gave birth to our beautiful daughter and I felt so much more comfortable and so excited and full of joy.

Over the next eight weeks I didn’t recognise that the anxiety was slowly building. At eight weeks old she had one unsettled night where she wouldn’t drink her bottle and I started worrying so much about it that I couldn’t sleep that night. That triggered everything that had happened eight years before only much more intensely. I didn’t sleep for three nights and the burning sensations were back.

During one of my sleepless nights I was searching the internet for help and found a Mum and Bubs unit for anxiety and depression at a hospital. I booked in as soon as I could. Mentally I felt detached from reality, like I was going insane, like I was in a fog. I was so indecisive about the simplest things like packing the baby bag. I couldn’t believe that I had gone from being a confident capable teacher, who had who had a huge capacity and had achieved a lot of things in her life, so someone who struggled to put clothes on the line or leave the house with her baby and felt fear when she was alone with my daughter.

Mentally I felt detached from reality, like I was going insane, like I was in a fog.

After a panic attack in hospital, the psychiatrist on duty asked me what my plan was for getting out of here. That motivated and empowered me to work on the strategies I needed to get back on my feet. I wrote out positive affirmations and scriptures that challenged some of my irrational negative unhelpful thinking. I worked out what a daily and weekly plan would look like when I got home. That structure and support made me feel more in control and confident to leave the hospital. My faith kept me confident that God was with me and he would pull me through. My husband was my main support. I believe that where I’m at today is due to being proactive in my recovery and the support of my husband.

Today I try to manage my mental health by doing exercise, my faith in God, his word and prayer, medication, relaxation like yoga and mindfulness, attending anxiety support groups, psychologist and psychiatrist sessions. Today I look after my daughter with confidence and competence and I do not get anxious when I am alone with her. I have found looking outside myself to support and educate others about depression and anxiety has helped me stay well. I love my life today and I find enjoyment in my family and my interests but I still need to use the tools I’ve learnt to manage the triggers for the anxiety on a daily basis to stay well.

Republished from beyondblue’s Just Speak Up stories